Timeline: April 25th, 2008
A few days had passed by for Ann-Marie, Grace to her brother John. Ramiel and Michael had lent her something profound. How something so blessed could be found in the hands of a sorcerer she did not know. This was something legends were made from. At least among her kind. Twice since then she had braved the coming dawn, only failing in her will and fading into the twilight slumber of the raw earth, burned but tested. It was a test. Good or bad, the Goddess would tempt her and thrust her into danger always. She politely thanked the Morrigan for this new challenge, though in her heart, the longing for the sun was great.
Ramiel hadn’t contacted her. She was patient, but she wanted at least to know if he was thinking about her request.
After dusk, she made her way quietly to the house, rapping on Ramiel’s door. She dressed in long dress with a feathered black winter coat, her hair and face hidden beneath the tall hood.
Ramiel opened the door dressed only in tight, well worn denim. His favorite jeans, they framed his body perfectly while being broken in enough to move comfortably. HIs summer tan had faded but kiss of the sun was still vivid enough to provide contrast with his hair. “Good evening.” He said as he opened the door wider for her to enter.
He closed the door and padded barefoot back into the den where he sat his beer down on the coffee table and took a seat back on the couch. The lighting was minimal, but enough to read. Ramiel placed his bookmark back into his copy of The Journey West, and gave his attention to Anne. “I would offer you a drink, but..” He smiled. “Make yourself comfortable.”
“You can offer. I can drink things other than the blood of mortals, wine would do if you have any,” she said entering the room, letting her hood drop to her shoulders.
“Then wine it is.” He said as he got up and moved into the den returning with a glass of merlot. A large wine glass properly filled was placed before her. “Bottoms up,” he said as he picked up his bottle of Old Suffolk. “What brings you out my way tonight?”
“Just curious that’s all. I don’t think I properly thanked you for your gift of time in the sun. Thank you.” She lifted her glass up as a gesture towards Ramiel in an informal toast and then took a sip. “I had a lot going through my head then and while I believe I thanked you, appreciation wasn’t foremost on my mind. Like you, I don’t like owing people. Should you feel you owed me for before, you didn’t.”
He opened his mouth to say something then changed his mind and stifled his words with beer. He took a minute to consider what to say. “It may be difficult to believe, but I do know how you feel over it.”
Noting the look of uh-huh on her face he furthered the explanation. “When I woke as a mage, I experienced eternity. Though my body is young, my soul and mind are eons old. For millenia my essence was scattered with no physical shell, until I remembered what I was and who I am. Then I ascended into the Supernal, what this world once was what it could be again. Perfection. I was everything, everywhere, I experienced all things at once. Then I returned to this world, cold, harsh and imperfect. A mere shadow of a fragment of what it could be. I remembered that once I was called Ramiel, and that for now would do. Though I had a new name, and being.”
He paused and took a drink. “I know well what it means to be given a gift that can not be kept, but I am thankful for that moment, those countless years of existence. ” He laughed, “You know it is why I laugh when you tell me how young I am, it does seem a bit humorous to me.”
“Based on that, I can see that. Reincarnation is at the core of what I believe. I believe your soul has existed all that time, perhaps even longer. As has mine, though I do not have any memories of those past lives. I believe in my very heart, dark and undead as it is, that I had them. That moment of true awakening, you must truly treasure it.”, she sipped her wine. She paused for a moment considering her words, “Granted, you may have some idea of the impact the ring had on me. Then you do understand my desire for it, good.”
One eyebrow raised. “Reincarnation. I am not speaking of that. I have lived, experienced all those years in this life.” He finished his beer and went to the fridge returning with another.
“Is there anything else you would like? More wine or something?” he asked.
“No thank you, this glass is sufficient.” she said sipping at her wine deciding to accept Ramiel’s statement on face value. “I was wondering, if you had considered my request?”
Ramiel sighed internally. “Straight to the point then.” He said as the couch welcomed him back to the warmth he had left.
There was no arrogance or cruelty or even his normal mischievous nature showing when he looked at her. “Yes I have thought about it and I have spoken with Michael. ” He paused for a moment, “The answer is still the same Anne. The ring is far too dangerous and valuable to give away.”
“That’s too bad,” she said, somewhat disappointed. “It would have been nice. But please, for my edification and general understanding, how is it dangerous or valuable to you and Michael? You are not vampires. And to be truthful, I wanted to get this lingering concept out of the way and discuss some other matters too.” It was obviously a polite lie, the ring was foremost on her thoughts. She tried to brush their answer aside, hoping against hope that it wasn’t personal. She and Ramiel had their arguments, but Michael. He was a mystery to her. He and she never spoke, though she had tried.
“Trying to get me to give up my secrets, hmm?” he teased her with a mischievous smile. Then let it fade before speaking. “If the ring were only of use to vampires we would not have kept it. Needless to say it is very useful to Michael and I.”
He calmly took a drink. “Do I really need to cover how it can be dangerous in your hands again? Think of it. If you go around telling your kind you walked in the sun because of a ring who would believe you?”
“Why in the universe would I tell anyone?” she laughed. “I think, you must admit, I know the danger far more than yourself.”
“Perhaps.” He stated calmly. “But if you were to have the ring in your possession and some of their servants see you and know you for what you are, well therein lies the danger, no? The ring will remain where it is, there can be no other answer to this. No you may not have the ring.”
After a moment and a fresh drink he spoke, “What other matters is there you wish to discuss?”
Ann-Marie was truly disappointed, but what could she do? She answered, “Very well then. I believe you are wrong, and as you have the ring in your possession we’ll have to agree to disagree, as it seems we often do.
“I need to know something about what transpired in South Dakota. That man in black who saved you and handed your body off to me. I must admit I first thought he was abducting you and was prepared to fight him, Johnny as well would have fought. But he handed you over. He seemed the arrogant type who played chess with other people’s lives. Who was he?”
“Interesting,” he said while contemplating her words. She is telling me that my own choice is wrong. I look at her and can see nothing but a brick wall right now.
“He is a mystery.” Ramiel’s smile had become mischievous again.
“Surely you must know something. My brother spoke of a Dark Man. But he is both at once and enemy and an ally. Is this man the Dark Man or similar,” she asked, genuinely curious, making it that much easier to hide the desire she felt for that which she could not have.
“Curiosity.. not just for cats anymore.” His smile was warm, seductive and furiating a the same time. It was his own personal blend. One thing Ramiel and always been good at was playing for people, giving them what they wanted. If he had wanted to he was sure he could do the same for her, but then why?
“The Dark Men. It is what we call them. At first we chased what we thought to be one individual force of evil. Over time we, being John, Chaska, Lyla, Michael, Rey, and Myself.” He paused and laughed. “Oh yeah and Daniel.” he continued.” We followed the wake of the dark man, Lyla tracking. Sometimes we caught glimpses of him, and always there was something bad going down. Stuff of nightmares really. Then one day he saved Rey.That is when I began to question the Dark Man and his motives. “
Pausing momentarily to wet his throat with beer he went on. “Then one day there was two Dark Men, and they seemed to help us out from time to time. Not long after I began contemplating the nature of these Dark Men, speculating that it was a group, more like us, and figuring out what they were after, another factor joined in this party. Those in White, the day they stole my daughter we learned the reference of the Brotherhood.”
“So there you have it, the Dark Men and the Brotherhood. Who they are, what they are doing monster or demon — which they are I don’t know. Are they good? Well I guess that depends on your point of view. All I know is the bastards in white have Serena and I will find a way to get her back one day. As for the Dark Men, well they are what they are. Mystery.”
She sipped her wine, the glass nearly empty. “I did not know you had a daughter. You have my sympathies.”
“While I understand the sentiment, there is nothing that can ease that pain. Serena was ripped from her mother’s womb, though she knows nothing of it. As far as her mother knows she had an accident and there was a miscarriage. I would appreciate it if you never spoke of my daughter. The truth broke her mothers mind and now that it has healed I would not have her suffer again.”
He paused and Anne Marie could see the raw emotion in his eyes as he spoke. Then he shut it out, like a switch being flipped. “There is no mercy or tolerance for those who took her. Once I find them hell will be unleashed.”
“Consider it forgotten. I will say nothing,” she answered. Pausing a moment she asked quizzically to change the subject, “These persons in white and black, why are they so theatrical? I mean, if I was part of a large conspiracy of good, evil, or some kind of enlightened self interest I would not wear such costumes or symmetrical clothing. Seems odd.”
“Is it.” His words fell more to humurous comment than question.
“If I wanted to beguile myself in mystery, as a group, I think looking alike would play to the confusion. It certainly did on this case. For the longet time we thought htere was only one. Now all we know is that there is more than one. They are many talents among them, and they are perhaps nt as black and white as their costumes?
“Not to mention that they may not be human, or that may not be their true appearence.”
“Spirits then, not mortal?” she asked.
“There are more things in heaven and earth… you know the old saying. How true it is. I wonder what Shakespeare experienced in his life.” He laughed lightly as though amused by his own thoughts. And in part he was, he could just imagine the old guy writing away and then look up to see a real spirit or demon. Faust, there was a biography.
Well amused Ramiel continued.”What I am saying is that some may be mortal, some may be spirit, others may even be demonic. But on the whole I can understand the choices they are faced with, to be demon or a monster? What shall the choice be. It is not an easy question to answer.”
She smiled a little at that, “I understand that choice quite well.”
“Yes I suppose you do. Is it difficult for a vampire to feel human? Are the choices the same for your kind? Do you have the same morals as a normal human? Myself excluded of course.”
“Morals are irrespective of what you are. It is your choices that matter. My morals are based on my faith, with certain realities of the flesh to consider as well, but not so much different that human morals. For me, ‘if it harm none, do as thou wilt.’.” she said, continuing, “as far as if I can feel as a human can, what do you think?”
He really concentrated on what she said, turned the words over and over in his mind trying to peice it together. “What did you just say?”
Ann-Marie looked askew at him, “I asked you what you believed a vampire would feel, based on your experience, folklore, movies, etc.” Continuing she said, “As a baseline you see, for comparison.”
“I try not to base things too much on the movies. Oh I may try to kill something the way a movie says just to see if it will work, like beheading a zombie.
“But I let experience and study decide for the most part. It is interesting to see how much is accurate once you see for yourself. My question however was based on what I know of the pack, and other shape-shifters, as well as what I have seen of spirits and yes even some other mages. The pack does not consider human life. It is moot next to the pack itself. In fact they do not consider other life when it comes to the pack. They will protect other Uratha over any other life when it comes down to the last.
“You see during the recent war, if the invaders were human, or mage, and showed no threat to the pack or thier territory, I doubt Ironclaw would have done anything. Now that is difficult to prove or think as he is a good friend of mine, however I know his base nature as it has been explained to me. I am tolerated because of Lyla, that was from the start of it all. Even though we have become such good friends, I could see him killing me if he thought I ws a threat to him or his pack.
“So that is what I was saying, how do vampires percieve things such as this? Do you value human life as anything other than food? How about other than human?”
“Vampires are not homogeneous. We all have different views, some enlightened, some quite debased. Personally, I don’t like killing unless it is necessary, animal, human, or other. It’s wasteful. If it is necessary, I don’t flinch from it not feel guilty, but I always value the sacrifice of that life. That’s me though. Mine is not a common view.
“Then you in fact have a third choice Anne. Neither monster or Demon, but that of human. Though in nature and not body.”
“I made my choices long ago,” she said with confidence, “it can be hard, but the goddess doesn’t make things easy. Nor should they be. To exist is to suffer, to conquer the suffering is to grow. Change, creation, the giving of life and the taking it are all part of my beliefs. More wine please?”
Ramiel retrieved the wine and poured it filling the glass. “You could look at it that way. I do not.”
“Thank you,” she said, taking a sip, “To each their own, I suppose. Some would consider it a struggle between those choices you outlined, the monster and the human.”
At that moment, both Anne-Marie and Ramiel heard the backdoor open, then close. Hearing movement in the kitchen, of cabinets opening, stuff being moved around, and the clinking of glass agianst glass. A few seconds later, the same cabinets were closed, and footsteps could be heard coming closer to the room. A thick puff of smoke, followed by a figure entered the room.
Michael looked at who was there, cigar in mouth, rocks glass in hand. He said, as he raised his glass, “Here’s to swimmin’ with bowlegged women.” As he took a drink with a smirk and humor in his eye’s.
“Evening Michael,” Anne Marie said. She wasn’t used to seeing humor in him.
“And to the fun that they can bring.” Ramiel replied with a raised beer bottle and motioned for Micheal to join them. There was plenty of room on the oversized couch, as well as another large leather chair.
“I meant the life is suffering part. I am so well versed with darkness that they few joys I find are quite welcome. I think life, really living is being your own person, being true to who you are no matter what. No matter how idiotic it may sometimes be.” He looked at Michael. “I do not think that it is the suffering that makes life. Not in the least.”
“I do not think that it is the suffering that makes life. Not in the least.”
She smiled, “I never said it MAKES life, but overcoming it, overcoming all of life’s struggles makes the joyous moments all that sweeter. What is good without evil? Pleasure without pain?”
Michael stood in the doorway, deciding if he wanted to sit or not. Obviously walking in on an ongoing conversation. Michael just had to ask, “What the hell are you two talking about?”
“Come now, Michael. It’s meaning of life kind of stuff. Philosophy,” Ann-Marie replied.
“Life is pain,” Michael said in a cold voice, all traces of humor gone.
She looked up at him quizzically. A moment ago he had been joyous and now cold. She paused, looking to Ramiel to answer first. Michael was his friend and collegue, Ann-Marie hardly knew him though something must be wrong.
“I would much rather think about the Come NOW part. Rather than dwell in the depths of your darkness Michael.” He smiled to his friend. “But really, I know there is a lot of pain. I have lost both of my children within a very short time, my mother , etc.
“But that is not all there is in life and you know that for a fact Michael. Now for one evening can we shed the morbid soul stuff. You leave that at the door and get over here, or cum over here whichever you prefer.” He teasingly patted the couch knowing that f he did take a seat it would be the chair. Though he dared Michael with his eyes to join him.
“I know what you want, and you’re not going to get it,” Michael said as he looked at Ramiel. Michael then walked over and sat on the couch, with a small space between him and Ramiel.
“Oh do tell… no never mind. But I doubt I am wanting the same thing you are thinking I want right now. However, that is not to say that I may not be thinking later, and then, maybe, just maybe I will bethinking what you think I am thinking.” He winked at Michael as he sat down.
“Anne and I were just discussing things in general. SHe wanted to know about Ro..” He thought about it.”The Dark man, or the black man, the one that dropped me off. She was also inquiring about the ring.”
Michael cocked his eyebrow, as he took a long drag on his cigar, and looked at Ramiel about that little slip about the Dark Man.
Michael slowly exhaled the smoke, as he spoke, “So what about the Dark Man that dropped you off?”
“I told her what we knew of them so far. Really it is a lot of nothing. But she seems curious about why they wear such costumes is the word she used.” He looked from Michael back to Anne, then back again.
“Costumes, or not, until proven otherwise, I will still consider them as an enemy.” Michael paused in thought as he took a sip of the sweet smelling amber liqueur he was drinking. “So, what were you discussing about the ‘Ring’?” Michael asked.
“She wants it, I told her no. But what do you say Michael?” he asked though he knew the answer.
“I thought I told you my answer on the ride back from South Dakota,” Michael said. Then looking at Anne and Ramiel, “What part of NO, do you people not understand. I thought it was a simple answer, which left no question for debate.”
“You can just leave me out of that rage there buddy.” Ramiel stood and went for another beer returning with a newly opened brew.
Ann-Marie listened to the interchange and the shift of tone. “I had to try. It is… important. I tried explain why to Ramiel, what it did for me. What I felt. But I didn’t know your depth of feeling on this.”
“Lets just say, I disagreed with it being used in the first place,” Michael said, with that hard edge to his voice still.
“Can you drop the anger here Michael?” Ramiel’s voice had taken on a soft quality, a soothing warmth filled it. “I know that I upset you by letting her use it in the first place. But I think in the end it was worth that trouble. Now I think she understands that the decision of No is not reversible. Maybe it is clear now that I am not the only one who decides what happens with this ring.” He turned to face Anne Marie. “I had to show you how he felt on this, since you so clearly stated that my answer of no, was incorrect..” He shrugged his shoulders and took another drink.
“As for you,” he returned his attention to Michael. “What is it going to take to get you out of this funk?”
Michael got up from the couch, looked at Ramiel saying, “I don’t know.” Then he just walked out of the room, and headed up stairs to his room.
Ramiel stood and followed, turning to Anne on the way. “I think we must end this here. We can continue later, but for now I must attend to something.”